Dec 28, 2014

Fine Motor Imitation Skills for Children with Autism

I have been working on materials that address fine motor skills in students.  For some of our students, this can be a real challenge. A few students may have scattered skills in this area.  There is a typical sequence that you can follow to get some motor imitation from your students.  This sequence seems to work: gross motor imitation, fine motor imitation, imitation of nonsense sounds, imitation of animal sounds, imitation of speech sounds and words.  It may be best to chose the skill you want to work on and the materials that you want to utilize. Next, work on that skill using a strong reinforcing item. However, in reality, many children might need guided assistance to correctly imitate a skill. (You don't want them to develop the skill incorrectly- for example writing a letter incorrectly.) Then, you can fade your assistance over time, as they do the skill better and better.

I usually like to have students trace first to have practice with  the actual line or shape.  This tends to be guided practice so that they maintain the correct form and stay on the lines.  I might also include some language with the process such as "Down and stop" or "over and lift up" or whatever cues the student to remember to lift up the writing utensil when the line is done. Additionally, when first starting, I like to place a picture that the student likes at the end of the lines they are writing.  This way,  they are more motivated to finish the line. Once they get to the picture, I say something like "meow" if it is a cat or something fun to keep them motivated.

These Fine Motor Task Cards are great for working on this skill of repeated practice. The tracing cards can be used over and over once laminated.

The Motor Imitation Task Cards and Printables are great to because they come with a set of task cards, but they also have a set of printable worksheets that  allow for 5 trials of  practice of the skill on the same sheet of paper.

Each of these can support the goal of increasing the motor imitation skills in students. But don't forget to add some fun to the task by using some exaggerated sounds and motions as the student learns this task. 

Dec 2, 2014

CYBER SALE on TPT (Use promo code TPTCYBER)

Hey, I just wanted to put the word out that today is the final day for the CYBER Sale on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Just use the Promo code: TPTCYBER for maximum discounts.  I have updated my store to join the sale.  Here is the link.  Enjoy...

Nov 30, 2014

Shopping with Your Child with Autism

Shopping seems to be an important activity in the month of December.  Whether it is food shopping, toy shopping or just plain old, "I have to pick up one more thing," shopping, we all seem to do a bit more of it during this month. So what strategies can parents and family members try to use to make this experience a tiny bit easier?  What advice can teachers offer families about this subject? Here are a few...

Running Errands

  • Make a visual or written travel schedule, teach it, and use it
  • Use a photo book with various places in it
  • Use their favorite place as the last place before home
  • Have one of their favorite electronic items used only for travel
  • Reserve a special toy for time when the best behavior is needed
  • Keep snacks handy
  • Use headphones for places with large crowds
  • Crete a visual support to show where you are going and when you will be done
Many of these suggestions lean toward helping the child to understand the expectations of the activity.  They do not mean that the child will like what they are hearing.  I know that most kids complain when told of some of the errands they are running. Then they barter with their parents to include some place fun for them.  But the key is that the expectations have be explained.  This is needed as well with children with autism.  However, the plan for the day should be visual and available throughout the entire trip. 

Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping presents it's own set of challenges. Most people have a history with certain stores and certain behaviors.  This link gives a great story with a very specific technique to try to make that experience smoother. Here are some ways to teach your child to utilize a grocery list, wait in line and handle money. Why?...Because if they can help you shop they are learning a life skill and they have something to concentrate on! Again the key to the grocery shopping might be in the pictures.  This webpage gives pictures to assist in the grocery shopping experience. Even with these ideas, you still need to start small. Don't plan a 3-hour shopping trip just because you have incorporated these techniques. 

Best Wishes!

Nov 27, 2014

Dollar Days on Autism Related Teaching Products

Happy Thanksgiving!  

I am happy to announce Dollar Days on my TpT store.  This will be going on today and tomorrow. Ten items have been marked down to one dollar!!!  Enjoy your day.

Nov 18, 2014

December Printables for Autism Classrooms and Special Needs Classrooms

Snow, winter, holidays and football are just a few topics tackled in the Winter Printables for Autism Classrooms.  This 63 page resource has a page or two (or three) for each winter related topic. Hopefully these pictures will give you an idea about what the pages look like.  If not, just check out the preview on the TpT Page.

Winter Printables for Pre-k, K, and 1st.

Some pages have a narrative.  Others are work activities.

Featured Topics:

New Year’s Eve
Martin Luther King
President’s Day
Football (activity page only)
Groundhog’s Day
Valentine’s Day 
Pie Day (activity page only)
Rubber Ducky Day (activity page only)

Nov 17, 2014

Tips for Conducting Group Lessons & Fall Task Cards

Group lessons can be difficult at times in an autism classroom.  Having everyone on the same page certainly can prove to be challenging. However, there are some ideas out there that can make the task a bit more productive (notice I did not say easier).  Here are some tips: 
  • Have your materials ready in a box or bin before the lesson begins.
  • Only keep on the table the items you are discussing at the present time. Do not clutter the table with extra things.
  • Use hands on activities as much as possible.
  • Keep your materials for the lesson behind you or they may end up on the floor.
  • Use a topic board with photos or picture icons to show the students what the lesson will be about.
  • Use a topic board to review the lesson at the end. Always close out the lesson with a quick (could be only 30 seconds) review of what was discussed.
  • Remember to alternate sides when presenting to each student.  Don’t feel the need to always work from the student on the left side to the student on the right side.
  • Remember to transition the students.  Clearly let them know the lesson is finished by telling them or showing them a sign.  Also, always direct them to the next activity.

Need a quick lesson lesson that is engaging and meaningful? Oh, and not to mention timely?  If you do here are the fall themed versions of my popular identifying same and different task cards. These can be used in a group or individually. 

Task Cards-Fall Items (Identify the Same) and Task Cards- Fall Items (Which One is Different?)


Each set includes 16 fall related pictures. Each page has 4 cards. Laminate the page, cut the rectangular card and have students:
a.)Say or point to the same.

b.)Use a clothespin or paperclip to mark the correct answer.

c.)Develop a creative method to have students identify the same.

Nov 16, 2014

Preparing for Family Gatherings and November Lesson Ideas

The holiday lesson plans are already due! November has come and almost gone.  It is hard to believe that this is the time to start preparing our kiddos with autism or other communication needs for family gatherings and large crowds. I guess the biggest obstacle for helping with this skill is recognizing that we do need to help with this skill.

One of the first things we can do is to teach social scripts related to the gathering or social event. This would let the students know some of the language to listen out for and some ways to respond to common phrases they may hear at the family gathering. 

The second thing that could be done is to role play the situation. This could involve identifying different scenarios from sitting at the table and passing food to what to do when a someone else wants to watch a different tv show.  The types of challenges that need to be addressed will vary with the child.  Each child may have an issue they have dealt within the past at family gatherings. Just ask their parents if there is anything specific.  The goal would be to give the child several options for dealing with that challenge. Also, we want to to give them the language to express themselves.

A third option would be to write a social story specific to the child or teens needs.  Here is a link with ideas on how to write a social story. A social story is a personalized story that helps an individual know what to expect in a social situation.  Social stories do not ensure that there are no challenges.  However, they do offer some insight to the person about what the expectations are for the social situation.

If you are still looking for lesson ideas for  November, here are the activity ideas related to Thanksgiving. 

After you check out the lesson plan printables, click over to the freebie for the Turkey Matching File Folder.

 Turkey File Folder Game Freebie

Don't forget this cute 1:1 correspondence pumpkin counting activity with differentiated task cards!

 Pumpkin Counting with 1:1 Corresponence
                                                            Pumpkin Counting Activity

Oct 9, 2014

Fire Safety Week Freebie!!! (Playtime Visual Communication Board)

Here is a freebie for Fire Safety week.  This is a communication board for pretend play with fire trucks, fire fighter costumes or books related to fire safety.


Sep 7, 2014

Morning Routines in an Autism Classroom

We know that children with autism work better when a routine is established. But 
what makes a good morning routine in your classroom? The truth is that everyone's 
classroom will run differently. I think what is important, however, is that you establish some sort of 
structure to go along with the morning in your classroom. For some of us that involves organizing 
students getting off of the bus and thinking about what do we do after that? Do we go straight to 
breakfast, do we walk down to the classroom?  For each class it would be different. Some routines 
that tend to be standard in classrooms would be students entering the room or entering the space        where their lockers are, removing items from their backpack and placing those items and a 
designated spot. After that, students are most likely expected to find their seats and begin some sort of a morning activity. For some classes this morning activity includes toys or fidgets, and other 
classrooms this morning activity involves work tasks where students need to use their hands to 
manipulate the work task. In other classes, this morning activity may mean worksheets that the 
student is expected to complete. In either case, students will be more successful with completing the routine you establish if you have a visual support. 

A visual support is something visual that cues student to show what you want them to do. These 
visual supports can be in the form of pictures icons, photos, or words.  It really just depends on what     works best for the student who needs to understand the information. Use the visual supports as a 
guide for when you are not standing right next to the student; they will still have something to tell them what needs to be done even if you're a few feet away or attending to another student. 

I always like the idea of morning work for students just so that they come into school and begin 
 something constructive. I never felt like the students needed a break from the ride into school. 
Now again, this could mean work tasks where students are using their hands to manipulate a task or it could mean some sort of worksheet. Here is an example of my morning work packets related to back-to-school:

The morning work packet has worksheets that require variations in response style 
so that pen and paper are not always needed. They require variations in 
response styles so that writing is not always the only way to provide the 
answer. So for example, some of the response styles might include using string to 
match items, cutting and pasting answers, using bingo markers to provide the 
answer, coloring, making steps in paper, circling answers.

Sep 4, 2014

Getting on the Same Page with Your Classroom Team

Sometimes it is easier to set up your classroom and instruction for the kids then it is to collaborate with all of the adult members of the classroom team. Teachers and paraeductors all have to go through a phase of getting to know one another and getting to know each other’s style. Building relationships takes time. There are many ways that you can foster positive collaboration and clarity in your classroom with the adults.

The first way is to set up a responsibility chart. On this chart you would indicate what the role is of each member of the classroom team during the instructional parts of the day, during the planning parts of the day and in relation to gathering materials for lessons. For example, who will make the Boardmaker ™symbols, who will gather the lunches, who will check the back packs each morning, etc,  Other classrooms may want to decide who is going to actually run the art activity or who is going to pick up the students from the bus. There are a number of things that happen in the course of a day where it is a good idea to have one or two people clearly designated to take care of those areas. It's also great to have this written down because if it is not written down sometimes we might forget. 

A second way to help foster this collaborative communication would be with something called a zone schedule. In this schedule you would highlight the activities for the day first, and then highlight what each person will be doing in that activity. These are very specific to the activity and don’t tend to include the planning piece or the gathering of materials piece.

Another way to help everyone staying the same page would be to create a lunch time schedule and a break time schedule for each adult in the classroom. This way you are really clear that breaks did not occur during your key instructional times. And you're also clear when each person is going out and coming back. If it's written down and
posted in the classroom there's no room for misinterpretation.  

Organization Sheets for Self-Contained & Autism Classrooms (Bubble Design)

If you've been teaching for a while a lot of this might come easy to you.  However, if you are new to teaching or new to an autism classroom where the behavioral demands of the classroom are greater, it will be important to get these elements in place and underway so that your instruction can be as smooth as possible. What you don't want is to have to discuss these elements of who's doing what, what time are you going, what time are you coming back, when the students are there. We know, sometimes it only takes 30 seconds of your distraction for the students to be distracted and get off task. 

Talk with the team an tackle these components ahead of time.
            1. Start with a template.

            2. Talk to your team and ask about their instructional strengths and hobbies.

            3. Formulate a plan based on the best interest of your students.

Sep 1, 2014

New School Year - No Time Blues

This year, back to school has been absolutely crazy for me. With dropping off to school and picking up from school, homework, covering books, and all of the other things that go along with, it has felt like a mad rush. If you are like me, you just can’t wait for things to settle down and routines to settle in. And it always seems like the biggest thing that stands in my way is time. Time to fit in all of the activities that need to be done and all the things that I would just like to do for myself.

Now thanks to the long holiday weekend, I was able to do something that was on my to do list for a while. I was able to finish up my fall packet of lessons for autism support classrooms. Wow! I am so glad to have been checked off my list. I am pretty sure that this will be a timesaver for many of you who want to make the lessons but just cannot find the time. These have language-based activities for students with autism who may also have intellectual disability. Or, they can just be used for a pre-k, kindergarten classroom or as independent work for a first grade classroom. The subjects covered are fall, pumpkins, fall festivals, football, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Veterans Day.

 Fall Printables for Autism Support Classrooms

Aug 22, 2014

Work Tasks for Students with Special Needs

Hands-on work tasks are a necessary and practical item in a special education classroom. Many lessons and skills can be taught using something other than paper and pencil. I think one of my favorite teaching tasks is to find a bunch of supplies and turn them into a task. So I wanted to bring a few of those ideas to you with the hope that they may inspire some tasks that can work well for your students.  

Sorting by color.

Matching like pictures.

 Match purple and green items. 

Match colors. 

Match letters of a name.

Place red pipe cleaners in the red container.  Place blue in the blue container. 

Aug 19, 2014

Back to School Boost Sale

Great news.  It is time for another TpT sale.  This Back to School boost sale on August 20, 2014 can get you up to 28% off depending on the store. Click below for the Autism Classroom Store.

Enter promo code BOOST at checkout to get the discount.

Aug 16, 2014

I Need a Break! Break Cards for Students with Limited Speech

Once you have created your lovely schedules for your students and you have yous lesson plans all ready to go, all of you students with sit down follow the schedule and have no behavior challenges throughout the entire school day.


Behavior challenges will occur even with super structure and organization.  The more consistent you are in providing the right routines, then those behavior will be minimized. But what if a student wants to take a break and they have no words?  What will they do?  They will get up, they will make a game of it, they will fall to the floor, they may hit, they may throw things, they may put their head down.  Then list is endless.

If you want to create a voice for a student who may not yet have speech or who may not always be able to pull out the words they want to say, try using break cards.  With a break card, the student can tell the adult "I need  a break."
 Break Cards on TpT

Only one type of card is need.  Just choose the one you prefer. There is also a "working for" card in where the student can earn a certain amount of "tokens" in order to earn the break. They can be laminated and used for the entire school year.   

Aug 14, 2014

Setting Up the Autism Classroom: Scheduling Your School Day

Setting up the classroom can be monumental and at the same time so exciting.  It is fun to start a fresh new school year.  However, if you are new to teaching or just new to teaching students with autism, it can be kind of a daunting task to organize and set up a classroom. That’s where Autism Classroom comes in. Detailed, step-by-step information about setting up your special education classroom is in the book How to Set Up a Classroom for Students with Autism (Second Edition). The book highlights effective strategies teachers can use to create an effective classroom.  One of the top strategies which offers the most payoff is the use of schedules. 

Ebook (Instant Download)

To promote efficiency in the class, a classroom schedule should reflect most of the following: independent work time, 1:1 (or 2:1) work time, small group instruction, social skills instruction, sensory play, structured play/structured recreation-leisure opportunities, fine motor work opportunities, personal management opportunities, limited large group activities.  These are not set in stone, as each school and principal will have their own guidelines for classrooms within their school.
The first schedule I would recommend putting in place is a tentative weekly schedule.  Don’t be stubborn, write it in pencil. Chances are you will need to erase it several times before it is final.  When creating it, think of what activities you want to occur throughout the school day, which activities have to occur and when are the pre-scheduled activities such as lunch and specials. Try your best to get a good block of uninterrupted time in the morning so that you can create consistency in the student’s morning routine.  For more tips on creating a weekly schedule, see my webpage on the topic by clicking on the picture below.  

 Weekly Schedule Considerations

Here are a few schedule templates you could use to get you started thinking about what you want to accomplish during the school day. 

Once you know what activities will occur, you can make student schedules. Schedules can come in many forms. The most useful for students with autism are those schedules that are visual. This could mean written, pictures, photos or actual object representations. This schedule provides the student with picture icons they can use to see what will occur throughout the day.  It can be mounted to folder or a piece of cards stock to make it sturdy.

 Color Coded Student Schedules

This product Color Coded Personal Schedules, available at the Autism Classroom TpT Store, is an individual schedule that you can add your own picture icons or objects to. There are 9 colors. You can choose the colors you like or you can use the blank one and mount it on colored file folders. 36 Picture icons are included! These schedules can be used in the home, school and community. 

We know that organizing the day is an effective strategy for working with children with autism and related special needs. Especially for those who may have intensive needs. Additionally, making the schedule individualized to fit the student’s needs (ex. specific sensory breaks) and his/her schedule (ex. specific speech therapy or reinforcement breaks) can help with behaviors. Schedules can increase on-task behavior by giving the adult a visual tool to direct (point) the child back to. Using schedules for students with special needs offers them a way to navigate transitions a little easier by knowing what to expect next.

Aug 13, 2014

Apps, Lesson Plans & Activities for Young Students with Autism

It is that time of year. Time to start planning activities and lessons for your students.  If you are teaching at home, you might need to plan activities for your little ones. Well, this resource, which is one of my best selling items in my TpT store gives teachers, parents and practitioners starting points and beginning places for planning lessons.  (This item is also available in paperback at any major online bookstore.) It is intended for pre-school and elementary-aged students.
Ebook on TpT
Ebook on TpT in Spanish

This book is gives over 100 starting points and beginning places for creating meaningful activities for pre-school and elementary-aged students with autism and related special needs. The book is in chapters by themes. The themes addressed in the book are:

Numbers and Shapes 
Fall (Sub-theme: All About Me)

Winter (Sub-theme: Winter Holidays) 
Summer (Sub-theme: Camping and Going to the Zoo) 
Mobile Apps

To help pinpoint skills even better, each chapter has a list of activities that address some of the skills that are sometimes the most challenging for some individuals with autism such as:

Joint Attention 
Imitation Skills 

Self-Help Skills
Independent Skills
Pre-Vocational Skills
Social Skills
Play Skills
Sensory Involvement
Basic Concept Mastery 
Fine Motor
Gross Motor

At the end of each chapter there is an "Implementation Tip" related to one of the activities in that chapter. Sample lesson plans for creating classroom routines and classroom procedures are provided in the book as well.  The paperback can be bought at online books stores or in bulk on TpT:
 Lot of 25

Additionally, the “Apps” chapter highlights 10 educational apps in each skill area.  That is over 100 apps! The highlighted apps can be easily incorporated into lessons and activities for young children. Suggestions are provided for how to use that app within your lesson.

Examples from the chapter on apps:

Imitation Skills/Matching
•Talking Ben (Outfit7, Free)- Have fun letting Ben imitate words and sounds that your class or your family makes.

Fine Motor
•iBuild ABC’s (Chris Kieffer, $0.99)- Build ABC‟s on the app, then have students use their bodies to make large letters on the carpet.

Independent Skills/ Pre-Vocational Skills
•More Cookies! (Maverick Software LLC, $0.99)- Practice mixing, baking and decorating cookies on the app for a few days. Culminate the lesson by applying the skills learned to a real cookie baking session.

Click to See Details

Setting Up an Autism Classroom On a Budget Series (Part 5 of 5)

Play time, sensory time and computer time.

Play time and leisure time products can be costly, but here are some tips for easing the burden on the wallet. Classroom teams can shop yard sales for “fidget” toys and age appropriate toys. A favorite yard sale find are the small wind-up toys usually found in kids meals at various fast food restaurants. They make great reinforcers and motivators for children (be sure to monitor their use closely if any students are prone to place things in their mouth.) At yard sales, sometimes someone may be willing to let go of a huge bag of these items for as little as $5.00. Swapping toys on a rotating basis with another classroom teacher in the building can help save some money as well. Additionally, games such as a matching game can be made pretty inexpensively using two identical decks of cards from the dollar store (shapes cards, letter cards, number cards, etc.) This theory works the same for paint “chips” from the hardware store or identical photographs, both of which can make simple matching games. File folder games are easy to store and easy to create. Simply take one set of matching game cards, glue it to a file folder, laminate and you have a sturdy teaching material. See this cute example of my Dalmation File Folder Game. Or for the teens and young adults, see this Teen Real Sports File Folder Game 

To assist with purchasing items for a sensory area in the classroom, teachers can ask parents or community supporters to send in items for a sensory area (ex. lotion, shaving cream, finger paint, weighted blankets.) If that is not possible, making sensory items may be the best solution. For example, a “weighted sock” can be created using tube socks and dry rice. Also, a teacher can try using three or four pillows inside of a sewn sheet as a sensory body pillow. If tactile sensory items are needed, creating a “squishy” toy using finger paint inside of a zippered baggie may just work. Just be sure to secure it with several baggies, duct tape and adult supervision!

Computers can offer value too. Teachers needing to create an autism classroom on a budget should take advantage of many of the free and low cost materials offered via the internet. For students, ZAC Browser (Zone for Autistic Children) is an internet browser that offers safe connections to websites for children with autism. is website for young children working on alphabet and reading skills. These are only two sites out of many that teachers can utilize for free. 

For the adults on the classroom team, the internet offers a variety of free trainings related to autism. For example,,, and all offer training and or videos with great information for educators and parents too. A fairly new site,, offers a full array of over 45 in-depth self-paced training modules that educators can take over the web. Lastly, low-cost books such as How to Set Up a Classroom for Students with Autism: 2ndEdition and How Do I Teach This Kid provide invaluable tips for little cost. These tips will hopefully help add substance to the classroom while keeping the money in the pocket!